The Classic Machines: EURO NASCAR
Here’s a great article from our friend and fellow motorsports enthusiast Rubens Junior, from his website ‘The Classic Machines‘. The post explores two words that don’t seem to belong in the same sentence; EURO and NASCAR. Give it a read, and make sure to follow his future posts.
Last Sunday, May 7th, something unusual happened, while comfortably sitting on my sofa, wearing my beloved plaid shirt, and holding a beer, I watched a NASCAR race from the very beginning to the end… and I loved it. But there is a catch, the race was in Europe.
What I watched was the 2023 NASCAR Whelen Euro Series season-opening race, which happened in the Ricardo Tormo circuit, in Valencia, Spain. Vladimir Tziortzis (pictured above), a driver from the island of Cyprus, won both races over the weekend.
You don’t like NASCAR?
I always have conflicting feelings about NASCAR. Although I love the concept of it, big American sedans, powered by insanely powerful V8 engines, racing against each other, I never had the patience to watch a race for more than 5 minutes.
The pictures above show my most intimate experience with NASCAR. In 2006 when the Richard Petty Driving Experience visited Georgia, I bought a 3-lap ride around the iconic Atlanta Motor Speedway. Yes, it was a blast.
I just can’t fathom the idea of following race cars going round and round on an oval circuit for more than 3 hours… I believe watching a chess match can be more exciting than that.
That is precisely what I like about Euro NASCAR, there are fewer oval circuits and the races are pretty short. Oh yeah, baby!!!
It is surprising how much the Europeans love the American car culture. You can find thrilling Hot Rod and Kustom Culture communities in Nordic countries and American classic car aficionados all over Europe.
When I wrote about the NASCAR experience in Le Mans, I found out how much the European race fans were excited to see those thunderous, big American V8 cars racing in their legendary circuit. The French were so passionate about NASCAR that they created their own.
In 2008, French rally driver Jérôme Galpin decided to make the European NASCAR dream come true. As a veteran race driver, he had good connections in the French motorsport scene and to make things even more convenient, his family business, Team FJ, has a lot of experience in building race cars. The first season was in 2009, and it was called Racecar Euro Series. The championship was held on 7 tracks across France, with 16 cars entering the inaugural race at Circuit Paul Armagnac, in the city of Nogaro.
In 2010 the series was approved as an International competition by FIA (Fédération Internationale de Automobile) after a race held in Nürburgring. The calendar was expanded further in 2011, to include more races across Europe.
The cars are NASCAR “style”, but the European series has its own approach in building them. The teams can choose from 3 different body styles, Ford Mustang, Chevrolet Camaro, and Toyota Camry. Still, under the skin, the cars follow the 100℅ Parity rule: same cars for every driver, same parts on every vehicle, and major components sealed.
The cars are assembled at the Team FJ facility, located in Blois, France, and sold to the teams.They are powered by the legendary Chevy 350CID V8 small block, fed by a four-barrel carburetor and producing 450 HP, not bad for a car weighing only 1200 kilos (2650 pounds). The transmission is a 4-speed stick or paddle shifter. The wheelbase is 2740mm. Team FJ is proud to say the European NASCAR is a 100% pure race car, with no electronic aid whatsoever.
Becoming officially part of the NASCAR family
In early 2012, Team FJ signed an agreement with American NASCAR to sanction the series as part of the NASCAR circuit overseas. Though it remains registered as an International FIA class, the series was allowed to use the NASCAR name and logo.
This new agreement also opened the doors for European drivers to join American NASCAR and vice versa, which can be a real challenge since the two classes might look alike but they are very different.
On July 1, 2013, the series was renamed the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series after Whelen Engineering announced an agreement to become the title sponsor of the series through the 2018 season and forward.
An American Party
The championship is structured in two classes, The Euro NASCAR PRO, for more seasoned professional drivers, and EuroNASCAR 2, for young talents and gentleman drivers. The chart shows how a typical Euro NASCAR weekend is divided.
As exciting as the races can be, the atmosphere in the pits and around the race tracks is also amazing. The fans have almost unrestricted access to the pits and drivers, and they also might find hot dogs, hamburgers, beer tents, American classic car meetings, live music, and cheerleaders. Every race is a party celebrating all things Americana.
The EuroNASCAR is growing fast, not only for all the reasons mentioned above but mainly because it is a great option for an entry-level class. Thanks to the simplicity of the construction, and the 100℅ parity rule, the cars are pretty affordable and also a blast to drive.
To end this article I decided to post a video from the Italian race driver and YouTube sensation, Alberto Naska. He sums up all the good this about the series, the differences between the American and European cars, and you can watch how it feels to drive the beast. Enjoy.
About the Author: Rubens Junior is a car guy who decided to write about his passion. Similar to many gearheads around the world, he grew up surrounded by cars and motorcycles, going to car shows and races. Check out his website ‘The Classic Machines‘ for automotive content with an international perspective.